Thoraya Ahmed Obaid

Executive Director of UNFPA

On World Mental Health Day 2007, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid made the following endorsement of the goals of the Movement for Global Mental Health.

Today on World Mental Health Day, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, joins others in calling for “making mental health a global priority”. Today, we call for greater integration of mental health and psychosocial support into humanitarian responses and efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. And mental health must be a key component in efforts to achieve MDGs 4 and 5, to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, respectively.

During pregnancy and after delivery, many women experience depression. But they lack the services they need to cope and care for themselves and their children. Perinatal depression is associated with increased risk of obstetric complications and premature birth. And depressed women are less likely to seek and receive antenatal or postnatal care.

The mental health of mothers also has an impact on a child’s health and survival. When a mother’s mental health is poor, lower infant birth weights and higher rates of malnutrition, infection and illness are more likely to occur.

Mental health and psychosocial support services are also vital for survivors of gender-based and sexual violence. Studies show that nearly one in three survivors of gender-based violence develops post-traumatic stress disorder.

To tackle these issues, UNFPA and the World Health Organization are working together to integrate mental health aspects into existing maternal and child health policies and programmes. And we are working with partners in the humanitarian community to expand access to mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings.

Today, we call on all governments and partners to include measures for mental health in efforts to achieve human development and respond to humanitarian crises. Mental health is central to human dignity.